Prologue: Kakashi's Decision

Something was strange.

Zabuza was dead... so what was this feeling? It felt like he was missing something very important...

The hunter nin was suspicious. The body should have been incinerated on the spot. Only the head was needed to prove the kill. And the weapon he used...


So, more than likely, Zabuza was alive and had an accomplice. Someone good enough to fool him.

Advantage – the puncture wound at the base of his throat should give them a week.

Disadvantage – his back-up were the kids.

A week for his recovery and their training.

If he'd been the sort, he would have groaned.

Still, he'd managed things far harder in a smaller time frame. Tough, but doable.

His team that consisted of a boy gifted with a chakra pool that was the envy of Gods. Not surprising, considering his parentage and the Kitsune. What was disturbing, however, was that the blonde's chakra levels were approaching his own. And it was slightly terrifying considering that the kid was barely twelve.

His cute little kunoichi with photographic memory and excellent analytical skills. As blank a canvas as he would have to work with. How far she went would be depended on the next few days. She could go very far, but she had to break her out of her foolish romance antics.

He was also saddled with a prodigy. The sole survivor to the Uchiha clan, Mr. 'Rookie of the Year'. No doubt that in time, his Sharingan would come to surpass his own. But over the years, he'd come to learn that prodigies were nothing but trouble. And he was right – the psych profile left something to be desired. The prepubescent's mentality was extremely precarious. He was a headache and a half at times but... there were warm parts to his personality. It was slow going, but he was coming out of his shell.

All in all, it surprised him how much he liked his team, considering how he rarely had the patience to teach children.

They would go far.

Statistically, a jounin sensei would be lucky if two of three genin made it to elite chunin. He though, was blessed with someone with a destiny since birth, one who had acquired it along the way and another who was waking up to the world.

He'd seen glimpses of them at their best - it was spectacular. They had deployed tactics in the field under severe duress that, while unusual, was very promising.

His problem -because there always was a problem-was that they were all dim. The dark haired boy emotionally, the blond educationally, and the girl socially. Teamwork exercises ranged from difficult to impossible on a given day. They, he realized, were dysfunctional.

They needed each other, now more than ever. This was going to be a trial by fire.

Teamwork was something that he valued highly, and he'd been eager to pass it on to his students. Trouble was, they weren't receptive. Or, at least, they hadn't been. It had been teamwork that had saved his life today, and in turn, his students'.

Beginnings of a plan were coming together:

Some positive reinforcement to start with. Training would begin tomorrow. Step-by-step, he would have all his ducks in a row. And weren't the Chunin exams looming in the not so distant future?

This... this he could take and run with.

However, that was tomorrow. For now, he was exhausted and needed rest.

With his eye drifting shut, his thoughts turned inwards. Anbu had been a long time ago – he needed to knock some rust off.

With that thought in mind, Hatake Kakashi went to sleep.